Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The 2011 Island Games: Isle of Wight v Guernsey

The ultimate flag quiz at Cowes.
A short stuffy bus journey from Cowes Sports, in which us concertinaed passengers had as much wriggle room as a gathering of sand eels in a puffin's beak, took me to the final of the men's football tournament at Newport (IW)'s St George's Park ground with fifteen minutes to spare.
Nearly at the turnstiles now...
Now, an arrival time of fifteen minutes before kick-off at most small grounds would normally give me time to do the essentials of paying at the turnstile, buying a programme and a raffle ticket after a short chat with the seller about the weather, a quick visit to the clubhouse bar or tea hut for refreshments, and maybe a swift hunt around the club shop for an addition to the enamel badge collection, and all in plenty of time for the pre-match handshakes...
It's that giant football again! Last seen at Cowes yesterday!
...but not for this match! The queue to gain entrance stretched back past the stand, across the car park and out onto the pavement along St George's Way. The match had to be delayed for fifteen minutes to allow everyone to come in via the two turnstiles.
The view from the grass bank at Newport.
They say that 1,000 people can fit around the railings of an average-sized football pitch (hence the minimum capacity at even a small ground such as Andover New Street's would be in four figures). At Newport for this match, people were generally standing at least two deep around the pitch. And it goes without saying that the 350 seats in the stand were all occupied by the early arrivals. The club had even allowed spectators to stand on the grass banking over the far side from the entrance. Bearing all this in mind, the official attendance of 1,870 seemed a little low.
A flat cap's-eye view of the proceedings.
Apparently, Games competitors were allowed in for free, and not counted in the official figures (and there were many tracksuited competitors dotted around the place). Thus, St George's Park's record attendance of 2,150 may well have been unofficially broken for this Friday afternoon fixture.
The covered terrace opposite the main stand.
This mighty throng were treated to a match worthy of the final billing. Both sides had won all four of their previous tussles during the week, with the Isle of Wight preventing an all-Channel Islands denouement when beating Jersey the day before. Jersey's consolation was a bronze medal in the 3rd/4th play-off match. They will be seeded in the next tournament in Bermuda in 2013, along with the two finalists.
The official dance moves of the Island Games, as performed by Guernsey (in green) and the Isle of Wight.
Guernsey - who will be playing in the Combined Counties League on the mainland this season, against the likes of Hartley Wintney and Eversley - took the lead within minutes of the start after a flowing move ended with a screaming close-range net-bulger at the far end of the pitch. But despite being the better team for much of the first half, they couldn't hold on, and the hosts equalised and then took the lead with two quick goals with ten minutes to play.
The last photo before the camera battery gave out!
Guernsey managed to pull the score back to 2-2 before the end. However, extra-time did for them. The Isle of Wight's more comfortable nights in their own soft and fluffy beds helped them to stay more alert as Guernsey's defence nodded off once in each extra half. The higher stamina levels of Wight's Southern League and Wessex League players eventually turned Guernsey's dream into a nightmare, as it ended 4-2.

So, here ends my Island Games match reports. There would have been at least one photo of the hosts' end-of-match celebrations, however, my camera battery decided it was a good time to become fully discharged. So, you'll just have to imagine their joy for yourselves...

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